Vitamin A plays a role in health that should not be underestimated and a vitamin A deficiency can have serious consequences. The diet should definitely include enough foods with vitamin A.
The body cannot produce vitamin A itself. Therefore, the vital vitamin must be obtained through diet. For this purpose, it is beneficial to know which foods contain a lot of vitamin A. However, the risks of a possible overdose should not be completely ignored.
Retinol and carotenoids
The German Nutrition Society (DGE) names retinol as the central active form of vitamin A. The most important secondary plant substances that are converted into vitamin A in the human body are carotenoids – especially beta-carotene.
For example, carotenoids can be absorbed through plant-based foods such as carrots and sweet potatoes, reports nutritionist Elyse Homan from the Cleveland Clinic (USA).
It is also possible to absorb carotenoids through fortified foods and special dietary supplements. In order to digest carotenoids and convert them into the active form of vitamin A, healthy fats are required, explains the expert.
On the other hand, retinoids, which are also known as retinol or preformed vitamin A, can be obtained through the consumption of animal foods. Eggs, fish, milk and liver are suitable for this. In contrast to carotenoids, retinoids are used immediately by the body.
Vitamin A overdose?
According to the DGE, however, an oversupply of vitamin A through a high intake of vitamin A that occurs naturally in food is hardly possible. Only excessive consumption of liver (food can cause long-term vitamin A intoxication with liver damage.
However, if vitamin A preparations or dietary supplements are taken improperly, there is also a risk of vitamin A intoxication, whose symptoms include nausea and vomiting, headaches and blurred vision as well as muscle pain, dry and red skin, hair loss and brittle fingernails.
Important for development of the embryo
But why is it actually so important for health that the body has enough vitamin A available? This begins with embryos, where the vitamin ensures growth and healthy development.
However, a study also found that consuming too much vitamin A can harm the fetus. For example, it is possible that birth defects and various infections and diseases can occur with too much vitamin A during pregnancy.
When adequately supplied, vitamin A can also support vision and help the eyes convert incoming light into an electrical signal, explains the Cleveland Clinic nutritionist. Vitamin A also ensures the correct function of the retina and the necessary lubrication of the cornea of the eye.
Vitamin A also counteracts night blindness (nyctalopia), cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Research has even suggested that vitamin A can partially reverse vision loss.
Blindness due to lack of vitamin A
On the other hand, according to a recent study from this year, a deficiency of vitamin A can lead to ophthalmological, dermatological and immunological impairments. A severe vitamin A deficiency can even result in permanent vision loss or blindness.
In addition, a severe deficiency of vitamin A can trigger an increased susceptibility to infections and impair the immune system, which is associated with an increased risk of premature death, the researchers add.
Promotes healthy immune system
Conversely, adequate intake of vitamin A promotes the immune system, which is associated with better protection against infections and toxins, thereby preventing inflammation and disease, reports the Cleveland Clinic expert.
In addition, vitamin A improves the complexion, although retinol makes the skin sensitive to the sun.
Important for reproduction and bones
Another important benefit of vitamin A is maintaining healthy reproductive function. However, if there is a deficiency, this could even contribute to infertility.
The nutritionist added that vitamin A also supported the growth and development of healthy bones.
Make sure you get a good supply of vitamin A
Overall, it is therefore important to ensure sufficient intake of vitamin A, including plant-based foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, kale, spinach, apricots or mango, but also animal foods such as liver, eggs, milk and dairy products as well as some types of fish can make a contribution.
However, you should not overdo the intake of the vitamin, otherwise there will be negative consequences for your health. (as)